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Kovalchuk, Hedberg have small WJC wager

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils goalie Johan Hedberg and star forward Ilya Kovalchuk have more riding on Thursday's World Junior Championship gold-medal game between Sweden and Russia than just national pride.

"Just a small cash bet, not much," Hedberg told "It's just more for bragging rights."

Hedberg, who is from Leksand, Sweden, said he and Kovalchuk made their bet upon arrival at Prudential Center Wednesday morning. The Russians beat Canada 6-5 on Tuesday while Sweden beat Finland 3-2 in a shootout to advance to the gold-medal game.

Russia is looking for its second straight World Juniors gold while Sweden hasn't won it since 1981.

"We're going to stand by our boys," Hedberg said. "It was pretty much a sure thing that there would be some kind of a bet on a game like that. Kovy is not the guy to back down."

Hedberg said there hasn't been any trash talking as of yet.

"Absolutely not, but Kovy is great because he has a lot of knowledge about the Russians and he takes interest in the young guys, to see who is coming up," Hedberg said. "And obviously I have an interest in the Swedes."

Hedberg and Kovalchuk will not be watching the game together. Hedberg said he'll be with his fellow countrymen, Henrik Tallinder, Jacob Josefsen, Mattias Tedenby and Adam Larsson, who, by the way, is old enough to play in the World Juniors but is instead going through a successful rookie season with the Devils.

"The Swedes are going to watch it together," he said. "We were at Jacob's (Josefsen) apartment (Tuesday) and we watched it. It was exciting. It felt like it was coming. If they kept doing what they were doing they were going to get rewarded sooner or later, and they did. I really like them. I like the way they play and I like their fighting spirit."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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